By now you’ve probably seen news about the Switch. It’s Nintendo’s new console-tablet-thing (I’m pretty sure that’s the technical term) that was announced earlier today. As a Nintendo fan, I’m personally pretty excited. It’s no secret that Nintendo has been floundering lately, especially stateside. It has been suggested that they should do what Sega did in 2001 and give up on the console market and focus on making software for third party consoles. But Nintendo has always dominated the handheld arena. Yes, tablets and smartphones have stolen a bit of their market, but the success of the 3DS has shown that Nintendo can still hold their own in that area. I think the Switch is a great move for them, because it unifies their handheld and home console into one.
First off, let’s talk about controls. Ever since the Wii, Nintendo has been all-in on “unique” controllers, and the Switch seems to go back on some of the weirdness, which is much apreciated. As you can see in the above trailer, the controller is basically a normal, Xbox-style controller that splits in two and snaps on either side of the tablet. Razer has an Android tablet with a similar design, and I’m sure others have tried this, but I think Nintendo is the first company to do something like this in an elegant way that looks like something I’d want to play on. Using the tiny side controllers on their own is a nice option I guess, but I don’t see developers using them for much, as they look pretty cramped. I like the new version of the Pro Controller; nothing fancy, just a good, solid, traditional controller. It seems to have the same buttons as built-in one, so I’m really hoping that this means all games will allow you to use either controller. No more wondering which of your myriad controllers a game is compatible with, please (I’m still annoyed that I can’t play Splatoon on a pro or classic controller, which, judging by the end of the trailer, is set to change in the sequel).
I find it odd that we never see anyone touching the screen on the Switch in the trailer. It would be super ironic if they went from having a home console that has a touchscreen where it doesn’t belong to having a tablet that doesn’t. I’ll be really surprised if this is the case, however, and I suspect that they simply chose not to show it because they wanted to distance it from the Wii U in users’ minds. Also, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s part of Nintendo’s design specifications this time around that every game must be playable with the controller only, since otherwise you won’t be able to play if it’s plugged into the dock. As an added bonus, they get people like me to speculate with their friends about whether or not it’ll have a touchscreen for a while.
I’m curious about the battery life. I’ll be impressed if they can get more than a couple of hours on battery playing a game like Skyrim. Will they drop the resolution for tablet mode to save battery? What about graphical quality? Come to think of it, my 3DS probably gets less than three hours per charge at this point, so maybe it won’t be a big deal.
Speaking of 3DS, this brings us to the interesting question of what happens with the current consoles. The Switch seems to have the capabilities of both of Nintendo’s current consoles. Sure, they’re saying that it’s a third category that’s meant to coexist with other consoles for now, but they also said that the original DS wasn’t going to take the place of the Gameboy line. I’m pretty sure Nintendo is giving themselves an out; if this ends up being a disaster, they can always bail on it and come out with new versions of the DS and home console.
I’m a little frustrated with Nintendo for the way they went about this. We’re well past convention season now, and it’s coming out three months after the holiday release window when new consoles traditionally do best. They’ve said they waited so long because they were afraid of competitors stealing their ideas, but I’m pretty sure that the amount of hype and press that they lost by announcing it this late in the year far outweighs any risk of some other company stealing their ideas (which is going to happen sooner or later anyways). Also, this trailer dropped just one hour before the trailer for Red Dead Redemption 2, which, let’s be honest, is probably much bigger news in the eyes of the average gamer. They announced that the trailer was coming out last night (really? Couldn’t you have at least tried to build hype first?), so it’s not like they didn’t know the biggest game of 2017 was being announced the next morning. Annoyances aside, for the first time since they announced the Wii, I feel like Nintendo is finally heading in the right direction. I’m cautiously optimistic, but I’m excited to finally be optimistic at all about a Nintendo hardware release.